Video: Leeds fun factory will bring literature to life for kids

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An exciting new centre inspired by a love of books will open this summer in Leeds.

Youngsters visiting The Rainbow Factory in Farsley will step through a giant storybook and into an enchanting world where their favourite characters leap off the page and into life thanks to stunning handmade models.

Freya Underwood with Hazel Merlino and a Rainbow Factory model. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Freya Underwood with Hazel Merlino and a Rainbow Factory model. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Children will be able to take the storybook trail through a magical forest, listen to tales beneath the storybook tree, get crafty in the creative kitchen, step inside a giant’s cage and even tuck into a meal inside Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread and confectionary house.

And just as in many of the nation’s best-loved books, there is a dynamic duo at the heart of this story of a £50,000 project creating around 20 jobs.

Sisters Hazel Merlino and Sarah Underwood, who both live in Leeds, wanted an alternative to soft play centres, museums and costly attractions to entertain Sarah’s two daughters.

The self-confessed “bookworms” came up with a project they hoped would entertain and educate under-10s, as well as encouraging a love of reading.

Hazel, 31, said: “We also wanted to make reading ‘cool’ again.

“Literature is all too often pushed aside by other forms of kids’ entertainment, so we hope the Rainbow Factory will help to change that.”

She added: “Our aim is to transform lives, to inspire, to reawaken the imagination – all through the simple joy of reading.”

Youngsters will be able to dance, sing, read and create their own stories as well as delving deeper into modern works and children’s classics.

And intricate models of characters from favourites like Jack and the Beanstalk and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will help bring the stories to life.

They have been lovingly crafted by Sarah’s brother-in-law Richard Underwood, who lives in Pudsey, who until now had never showcased his homemade creations.

The YEP’s Get Leeds Reading campaign urges parents to spend at least 10 minutes a day reading with children. We also want to recruit 50 volunteer reading helpers to support youngsters in Leeds primary schools.

The Rainbow Factory is expected to open in June.